The Delhi University Queer Collective (DUQC), in collaboration with the Ramjas Gender Forum, held a panel discussion on ‘Contestations Within The Queer Movement’ on November 3, 2017 in Ramjas College. The panelists were Aman Sinha, Sreshtha Bhattacharya, Aarav Singh, and Rajendrani Sarkar. The panel saw a packed room in attendance, and moderator Anmol brilliantly drew us all in with his short yet impactful introduction.
Sreshtha, who is pursuing Sociology Honours from Miranda House, kicked off the discussion by stating that she’d perfectly understand if one finds it difficult to relate to what she had to say. She identifies as bisexual, and read out the lexicographer’s definition of the word. Dispelling the widespread myth that bisexuals are promiscuous, and the opposition she’s had to face for “not looking bisexual enough”, she moved on to the topic of gender. Gender is usually placed within an airtight container which can’t be nudged open. Sreshtha pointed out that while some people can confrom to the societal expectations of gender, many can’t, and it becomes problematic for them. As someone who has been questioning her gender identity for years, Sreshtha believes that there is no binary division and that masculinity and feminity, man and woman, are both ideological constructs; a point which she supported by stating the case of inter-sex individuals.
Aman Sinha, an English Honours student from Ramjas, talked at length about how cisgender masculine men within the spectrum sometimes tend to become propagators of patriarchy. Though he admitted that discussions have evolved, he expressed his displeasure over the fact that not everyone realises that patriarchy affects and represses both men and women.
Not just women, but men and people of various other gender manifestations including agender and genderqueer people. He asserted that the narrative has always been dominated, if not hijacked, by the more privileged. For white middle class feminists, home was full of restrictions. But the same home gave comfort to black feminists. Basically, when one narrative dominates the other, or one accesses spaces at the cost of the other, it speaks of a much bigger and a much larger problem, of how even while defying patriarchy, we tend to become patriarchal in our ways. He also discussed stereotypes within the community (bisexuals are greedy) and the subjugation of the lesser feminine by the more feminine. Questioning gender roles, he talked of labels. An event that he had attended, focusing on the lgbtqia+ in the north-east, taught him about how labels are sometimes institutionalised to serve one’s purpose, post which they end up losing their true essence.
Rajendrani Sarkar of Miranda House, who identifies as asexual, had always viewed the movement from a distance; that was until she became a part of the community. Objectively defining asexuality, she mourned the absence of the word in the Oxford dictionary. Informing us about the highly informative and instrumental AVEN, an authentic site for asexuals which provides a lot of valuable information. There is no thumbrule of being asexual. The spectrum accomodates a wide range of asexuals, from aromantics, heteroromantics, and homoromantics to greys and queer platonics. On a personal level, Sarkar is repulsed by sex; echoing the feelings of hundreds of anti-sexual people who believe sex is unnecessry. She drew the asexual flag for everyone to observe, and explained the color coding and its significance. The asexual logo, the spade, was also discussed. It is perfectly natural for asexuals to feel aroused, as it is more of a biological reaction than a romantic or sexual one.One may choose not to act on it. She concluded her talk by emphasising on the problem that arises for asexuals by being a part of the movement on account of the absence of the very thing that the movement is all about – sexuality.
The final panelist, Aarav Singh, began by asking the audience if they were aware of the term ‘Transgender’, and what their perception was. He argued that trans urgently need more visibility and recognition. The exhorbitant cost of getting surgery,which cannot be borne by all, was also a part of the discourse that ensued. He talked about his own experience, and how he was unfortunately forced to drop out of college due to the ever-present snickers and judgements. Singh wasn’t even allowed to withdraw money from his own account, as the bank officials refused to identify him according to his orientation.
Following the panel discussion, a very interesting interaction took place between the panelists and the audience. An audience member, Dhruv Trehan, questioned Sarkar about her views on sex and sexuality, and the dilemma that one faces as an asexual when sexuality is forced upon them by society. Another person enquired about the legitimacy of the claim that black feminists found solace in their homes, to which Aman responded satisfactorily. The double oppression that lesbian women was another point that garnered unanimous consensus. Victor, a Brazilian studying in JNU, initiated talks on religion and queerness, to which Vikramaditya Sahay had a lot to add, resulting in the uncovering of new and educating facts. Dalit queer representation was also hotly and passionately debated, which reminded us of how, for certain groups, finding their own place and an equal standing even within the queer community is a mammoth task. Intersectionality might be too new to be adapted to the queer movement, but unless and until we don’t talk about it, we also shall not claim the moral high ground of inclusivity, as we ourselves are not really being inclusive, not at least in true sense of the word.
Report by Aswathy Nair, Ramjas College